Internet Horology Club 185
Ball Marked 18 size Cases, When Did They Start?
July 12, 2014, 18:52Buster Beck
Ball Marked 18 size Cases, When Did They Start?
Ball Watch Company started marking their cases "Ball Model" for the 18S by 1906.
That is where most knowledgeable collectors draw the "Ball-Model" line on case markings. With very few exceptions I believe it is fair to say that with 16-size Ball-Walthams we should expect to find "Ball-Model" marked cases by about 1902 and with the 18-size Ball-Hamiltons by 1906 production.
One more point about the beginnings of specifically marked as "Ball-Model" cases, the 18-size Ball-Elgins which were produced only in 1904 and 1905 are usually found in cases without "Ball-Model" markings which seems to further support the "by 1906" time-frame reference.
I think Ball began using cases that conformed to his later "Ball-Model" specifications by as early as 1900 on the 16-size and 1904 on the 18-size but they lacked "Ball-Model" markings.
But, as far back as the mid-1890s Ball-Howards were cased and timed in Jennot & Shiebler cases that had "Webb C. Ball" markings.
The Ball Watch Company cased their movements in Cleveland but likely sold some of their 18-size movements in the seller's choice of other cases. Just because their watches were cased and timed in their facility should not be taken to imply that every 18-size movement was sold in a "Ball-Model" case.
Since the 18-size "Ball Model" cases were clearly available by 1906 on they will always be preferred for the later movements, I'm sure we all agree that if you have a choice that's the way to go. Since there are far more movements than cases surviving that means the value of these desirable marked cases will continue to escalate.
Ball had a "sold complete cased and timed in their facility" policy, this began long before there were marked as "Ball Model" cases, some of the early examples have the very same basic mechanical features as we normally associate with Ball Model cases, but were not marked as such. The easiest way to recognize true Ball cases is by their wide light reflector ring.
An ad in the 1902 Ball Catalog states:
"Many good watches are ruined as timekeepers by being forced into cheap, imperfect sweat shop cases that do not fit properly. We have had some sad results in this direction, and intend to avoid such dangers in future by sending out complete watches only"
We'll never know for sure, but based on Ball's advertising and the evidence of the watches we find, I think it's an entirely reasonable conclusion that Ball was buying cases to their specification before there were marked Ball Model cases.
Ad Picture 1;
July 14, 2014, 06:07John Scott
That is a good summary, and a helpful one.
The Ball catalog pages you show are actually from a catalog that must have been issued in 1901 as it has calendar pages covering the period from July 1901 to June 1902.
The Ball catalog of 1902, on page 2, uses the terminology “Complete Watches Only” (this catalog is reproduced in Ehrhardt Book 2). The 1902 catalog also refers to “The new thin model 16 size three quarter plate 16 size watch”.
In the Ball catalog dated 01 May 1903, on page 16, mention is made of the “16 size Ball Model Watch” and there is the statement “Sold as a complete watch only”.
In the Ball catalog dated 01 May 1905, on page 16, mention is made of the “16 size ball Model Watch” and, on the following page, there is the paragraph: “Sold as complete watches only in Ball Model Cases made to fit them properly and sent out in reliable time-keeping order at the following uniform standard prices”.
Clearly, over the very early years of the twentieth century, there was a development of terminology. From the references quoted, the appellation Ball Model, in respect of cases, appears to have been introduced after the middle of 1903 and by the middle of 1905.
July 16, 2014, 20:49John Scott
Since writing the notes, above, I have been able to refer to a 1904 Ball publication (notebook) which also carries the wording "Sold as complete watches only in Ball Model cases made to fit them properly ....". The message clearly applies to the 16s watches on offer. Whether it was intended to apply, also, to 18s watches is not perfectly clear as the message and the listing of 18s watches on offer are on different pages.
From this, I believe we can pin down the introduction of the Ball Model terminology for cases to 1904, for 16s cases, at least. Caution is still needed, though, because full details of the connection between advertising and sales are not knowable.
July 17, 2014, 11:55Lindell V. Riddle
In the early days of the American Watch Industry and through the first decades of the Twentieth Century when a customer bought a new pocket watch from their local retail jeweler they first selected the movement, usually including dial and hands from one area of the store. Then the salesman moved them over to the selection of cases where that choice was made. The mating of movement and case was called "fitting" as there may be some revision in the form of filing and sanding required to have everything fit together and work properly. Since they were not designed as a "set" there could be problems. It took a while to develop exact standards and even then each case manufacturer varied a bit on sizes. The movements as well varied in overall diameter and thickness. As early as the 1890s we find Waltham, Dueber-Hampden and most particularly Howard promoting the "complete watch" as a factory assembled, cased and timed unit. In fact, it would not be until the late 1930s that all American made watches were sold factory cased and timed.
The more precisely cases and movements fit the better they run, the easier they wind and set. If you have changed cases on movements with any regularity you know they do not always interchange. You may find watches that have difficulties in running, winding and or setting because someone "swapped cases" and therefore created a difficult to correct problem.
Since those at the Ball facility in Cleveland had the ability to control the way their watches were put together they pushed the idea of all their watches being case and timed in-house and to a great extent used cases they ordered specially for each of the movements they sold. An early example of this is with the Ball-Howard where we see the cases which had to be specially made to fit the unusual, slightly larger than 18-size of the Howard movements and carrying specific case markings that show they were designed to be cased, timed and sold as a complete watch.
In beginning this topic Buster put together a good synopsis, most of it culled from previous IHC postings and since he was focusing on the 18-size cases I think what he posted will be used as a worthwhile reference for those wanting to understand whether a particular 18-size Ball Watch should be in a marked as "Ball-Model" case or not. I agree with him that so far as I can determine the Ball-Elgins are not usually found in original cases that have Ball Model markings. Most often when we find a Ball-Elgin in a marked as "Ball-Model" case it turns out to be a newer case that previously held a Ball-Hamilton movement. The only exceptions to this, and I find they are very, very few, seem to be the slowest selling examples such as the instance of a Ball-Elgin Hunter Cased movement. One of those in my collection, number 11958075 fronts a post-Ball Trade Mark dial, by that I mean it has no "Patent Applied For" markings and has the later style numerals and markings we associate with 1906 and later dials. It also is housed in a marked as "Ball-Model" case showing it was a slow-selling watch that looks later than its movement number would lead one to believe. There are other examples, but I think this one helps make my point.
Ball collectors have long considered the Ball-Elgins to represent a dividing line between the Early Ball-Hamilton 18-size and the Later Ball-Hamilton 18-size watches. During 1905-1906 time-frame when Ball-Elgins were being marketed is in fact when the afore-mentioned Ball Dial Design Patent was granted and therefore a change in dial designs without the previous patent references was taking place. And it is also the point when marked as "Ball-Model" cases were being phased-in for their 18-size movements. Simply stated, in most instances what we are calling "Early Ball-Hamiltons should not be in "Ball-Model" cases whereas the "Later Ball Hamiltons" should. But none of this happened immediately and we must recognize they used up all the dials and cases in their inventory, often with no regard to which specific markings were on those dials and cases. I have often said... "What we so obsess over today meant nothing to them" ...and this discussion drives that point home especially well.
John Scott has specialized mainly on the Ball-Waltham watches and many of us have benefitted greatly from his research. Focus on the fine points that he and Buster are discussing here are very fine, narrowly defined points and in some instances they are merely saying the same thing in slightly different words. Let us continue a bit further and I hope my musings help define some of those points a bit more. Everything we post is being read by collectors today and will be here for future collectors so hopefully the beneficial quality of what we are posting shines through.
Something that must always be remembered about the Ball enterprise, whether it be "Ball & Co." or "Ball Watch Company" or any of their other Ball-related names is they were throughout the years constantly promoting the myth of being an actual watch manufacturer which of course they were not. Much of what we are finding in the old books, notebooks and catalogs is self-promotion to the nth degree, some of it was a bit over-stated. And when they say... "Sold as complete watches only in Ball Model cases made to fit them properly ...." that does not necessarily mean the cases were all marked as "Ball-Model" in every instance. I have several of what are clearly Ball Model cases with all the features of MARKED as Ball-Model cases but without the "Ball-Model" marking. This could indicate someone simply missed adding the marking, but since I have found quite a few of them over the years I think it also is a clue to the fact they were ordering in what we call "Ball-Model" cases for some time before the marking was specified on the cases. I think this is an important point to recognize.
There is also every reason to believe they were modifying cases to fit movements more precisely when employing cases from various manufacturers both before and after the early years of "Ball-Model" case availability.
Practically from the inception of their operation Ball and his associates marketed "complete watches only" many years before any marked as "Ball-Model" appeared so it is important to recognize that "complete watches only" did not necessarily mean there were "Ball-Model" markings on those cases, especially not the earliest ones. This is something I have studied for a number of years and we have posted information about this subject before. Without question as was pointed out above in this topic the first movements sold in specifically marked as "Ball-Model" cases were the 16-size Ball-Walthams and they were followed by the 18-size Ball-Hamiltons and a very, very few Ball-Elgins during the transition to specific "Ball Model" markings.
This is also a good time to point out that beginning around 1902 when Ball referred to... “The new thin model 16 size three quarter plate 16 size watch” ...the only 16-size watch they had at that time was the Ball-Waltham. Beginning in 1910 when they contracted for Ball-Hamilton 16-size movements the ad-writers at Ball described them as if they were the same watch and although we know they were quite different, the buyer was kept in the dark about what they were actually purchasing. Consider that for a while Ball offered to sell 18-size Ball-Hamilton, Ball-Elgin and even leftover, slow-selling Ball-Howards at the very same time. Later, at the end of the 1920s they sold 16-size Ball-Waltham, Ball-Hamilton and Ball-Illinois but the only difference that shows up in their advertising was the available jewel-counts, at times they even showed an image of one watch manufacturer when in the advertising copy they were discussing another, for the most part unrelated movement.
And all the while keeping alive the myth that made it appear they were actually manufacturing watches in their Cleveland, Ohio facility. They did do some of the final assembly and finish, the fine adjustments, at times modifications and of course the casing and timing we are discussing in this topic as well as printing signature names or a Brotherhood marking on dials in Cleveland, they installed their patented dials and hands, cased and timed the movement but they did not really "manufacture" in the usual sense of the word. We know they finessed their customers to such a degree the retail buyer was oblivious as to what they were actually buying, of course all the buyer really cared about was how the watch performed, and perform well they most certainly did. The fact that Ball watches were "sold as complete watches only" had a lot to do with that regardless of the precise markings on each and every case may be.
July 17, 2014, 13:12Buster Beck
Great information and facts John and Lindell.
I started this thread wanting for our membership and guests a quick reference point on when the 18sz Ball watches first started being cased in "Ball" factory marked cases. Most of what I posted was taken from several hours of researching prior IHC articles.
So we have lots of very good useful information on the 18sz Ball factory cased watches as well as the 16sz Ball Waltham factory cased watches in this thread condensed in one place.....
August 24, 2015, 13:04George Frick
Found this great information using the "Find-Or-Search" feature.
It answered several questions I had about 18s Ball cases.
So much good information in the IHC185 archives.
Thanks everyone who contributed.
August 28, 2015, 09:42John Scott
Recently I had an opportunity of examining a Ball catalog from 1900. It contains the same wording under the heading Complete Watches Only that is presented in the excerpt from the 1901 / 1902 catalog that is reproduced in the first post of this thread. Furthermore, the 1900 catalog makes it clear that both 16s and 18s Ball standard watches were offered for sale as complete watches only. There is mention of the trade-marking of dials and movement plates but not of cases.